Symptoms of contemporary performance

Author: Patrick Duggan

It is interesting that while A. D. Nuttall's investigations in Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure? focus mainly on ancient and Elizabethan tragedies, he decides to answer the question of his title in the mid-1990s. While trauma has long been the subject of scholarly attention in many other fields, very little has been written on the subject in the context of theatre and performance. Trauma, like performance, is a complex and polysemic phenomenon. Raymond Williams' writings, particularly Modern Tragedy (1966), and his idea of 'structure of feeling' have proved both profitable and influential in the development of the research presented in this book. The book critically traces a particular, 'performative' genealogy of trauma theory through Jean-Martin Charcot and Freud to Cathy Caruth and other contemporary theorists. It addresses the theatrics of Charcot's practice as a means both of articulating the performative lineage of trauma theory and to suggest that trauma symptoms are themselves performative in nature. The book also argues that Williams' notion of 'structure of feeling' can be used to identify a contemporary, societal 'psychic' trauma (in the West) which pervades daily existence. The possibility that live performance can put the spectator into an experience of trauma's central paradox is explored. The book discusses what it means to witness and to be witnessed in the context of trauma in performance. Audience experience, the events of Abu Ghraib, and specific instances of theatrical trauma are discussed. Finally, the book considers questions of ethics in relation to performance which addresses trauma.

Abstract only
Log-in for full text

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

manchesterhive requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals - to see content that you/your institution should have access to, please log in through your library system or with your personal username and password.

If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/extracts and download selected front and end matter. 

Institutions can purchase access to individual titles; please contact for pricing options.


If you have an access token for this content, you can redeem this via the link below:

Redeem token

    • Full book PDF download (with hyperlinks)
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1070 466 54
Full Text Views 405 154 9
PDF Downloads 350 142 18